Sushma Swaraj pulled no punches in her much-awaited speech at the UNGA. While her speech mentioned even something like sanitation under Swachh Bharat and also India’s acceptance of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, these were by no means unrelated or unimportant references. These references underlined the need for a conducive global environment for tackling poverty and inequality. Here are the significant takeaways from what she said and how the dots connected:
1) Combating terrorism effectively: “We have to first understand that terrorism is a violation of human rights. Terrorists don’t have banks or factories of weapons. In that context, it is important to know who supports such terrorists? Afghanistan also raised this issue a few days back. Those who sow seeds of terrorism have to pay for it. There is no your or my terrorism – we cannot win the war against terrorism like that,” she said.
“We should isolate a nation that doesn’t want to be a part of the fight against terrorism. We have to isolate a country that sows, grows and sells terrorism. Such countries have to be held accountable. We have to take actions against a country that allows terrorists to hold public celebrations, without bringing them to justice. Such a country is equally responsible for terrorist activities,” Swaraj said in a clear dig at Pakistan.
“We have to be united in our fight against terrorism. We have to keep our likes and dislikes aside. We have to forget favours and leave old understandings. I don’t think that it is difficult, it is a matter of having the will to do it,” Swaraj said in what is seen as an obvious message to the US.
2) Targets Pakistan: In a no holds barred speech, Swaraj minced no words in openly targeting Pakistan and blaming it for the Pathankot and Uri terrorist attacks. Targeting Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, she said, “Pakistan has said that India placed pre-conditions for talks which are not acceptable to him. What pre-conditions? Did we impose any pre-condition before extending an invitation for the oath-taking ceremony of our Government? Did we impose any pre-condition when I went to Islamabad for the Heart of Asia conference and agreed to begin the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue? Did we impose any pre-condition when Prime Minister Modi travelled from Kabul to Lahore? What pre-conditions? We took the initiative to resolve issues not on the basis of conditions, but on the basis of friendship!”
“We have in fact attempted a paradigm of friendship in the last two years which is without precedent. We conveyed Eid greetings to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, wished success to his cricket team, extended good wishes for his health and well being. Did all this come with pre-conditions attached? “And what did we get in return? Pathankot, Bahadur Ali, and Uri. Bahadur Ali is a terrorist in our custody, whose confession is a living proof of Pakistan’s complicity in cross-border terror. But when confronted with such evidence, Pakistan remains in denial,” she said.
“It persists in the belief that such attacks will enable it to obtain the territory it covets. My firm advice to Pakistan is: abandon this dream. Let me state unequivocally that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and will always remain so,” Swaraj said.
3) Balochistan atrocities: In line with the Narendra Modi government’s approach of exposing Pakistan globally for its atrocities on people of Balochistan, Swaraj said, “On 21st September, the Prime Minister of Pakistan used this podium to make baseless allegations about human rights violations in my country. I can only say that those accusing others of human rights violations would do well to introspect and see what egregious abuses they are perpetrating in their own country, including in Balochistan. The brutality against the Baloch people represents the worst form of State oppression,” she said.
4) Commitment to climate change: Swaraj assured UNGA that India will continue to play a leading role in combating climate change. “We have decided to submit our Instrument of Ratification of the Paris Agreement on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi who epitomised a lifestyle with the smallest carbon footprint,” she said. “India has launched an ambitious domestic effort to transform our energy mix to achieve 40% energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. The massive investments required entail a predictable and stable environment towards which we are working actively. Apart from this, our path-breaking initiative for an International Solar Alliance is intended to make efficient solar technology available for all,” she said.
5) Highlights PM Modi’s am projects: From Skill India, Jan Dhan to Swachh Bharat and Digital India, most of PM Narendra Modi’s major projects found a mention in Swaraj’s speech. The central idea seemed to be to indicate that peace is necessary for development. “Under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Campaign), more than 400,000 toilets have been constructed in schools. The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Educate the Girl Child, Save the Girl Child) programme has become a nation-wide mission. The Make in India brand is receiving international acclaim. Almost 250 million bank accounts have been opened for the poor under the Jan Dhan Yojana, the largest financial inclusion programme the world has ever seen. Digital India is transforming the country. Under the Skill India initiative, a number of programmes are underway to enable youth to reap the demographic dividend. These initiatives have added a new dimension to India’s growth story, making it the fastest growing major economy in the world at a time of slow global growth,” Swaraj highlighted.
“We are all aware that 1/6th of humanity lives in India. Therefore global success in realizing SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) depends on the success achieved in India,” she said.